life

Spread the Corner of Your Garment Over Me

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“Spread the corner of your garment over me because you are a close relative who can take care of me.” Ruth 3:9 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

It’s good to have a sense of purpose. It’s also helpful to have the vision to see how to pursue and fulfill our purpose. But along the way, things we don’t know about may hinder our way or become obstacles to overcome.

This is true for all of our lives. We make plans based on what we know. However, we don’t know all there is to know. But God does. He is omniscient—all-knowing. God knows all there is to know—past, present, and future—because He is eternal in nature.

What is amazing to me is how the Lord works in concert with us. He neither ignores or rejects our free will but includes it as He orchestrates how His will is worked out.

This short segment of the story of Ruth (see text below) gives some insight into how God incorporates and works with our free will and plans in conjunction with His will.

When different plans converge

As this chapter begins, Naomi lays out her plan for Ruth to follow. Ruth does what she’s told but also has her idea of how things should go. Our third person in this story, Boaz, brings to light new information Naomi and Ruth are unaware of and sets in motion his own plan.

Each of these three main characters have their own view of things and what they see in the future, but God has an overarching plan that reaches beyond their lives.

But there’s more to this short story segment than grand plans. This encounter between Boaz and Ruth on the threshing floor further reveals insight into each of their characters.

This scene unfolds late in the evening after Boaz finishes his work of separating the grain from the husks. It was hard but rewarding work to prepare the final product of the harvest for sale to others.

Once the work is done for the day, Boaz eats his evening meal and drinks to a point of contentment to rest for the night. Ruth watches for her cue to set Naomi’s plan in action. Once Boaz is asleep, Ruth quietly tiptoes to where he is laying and uncovers his feet and lays down in the darkness.

Later in the night, Boaz wakens because of a chill and realizes someone is lying at this feet. Startled, he asks who it is. Then Ruth sets in motion her plan. She tells Boaz why she’s there and requests him to cover her with his garment.

Now we see the character of these two people come to light while they’re alone in a dark room. Ruth submits herself first to Naomi then to Boaz with the innocence and trust of a child.

Instead of taking advantage of this young foreign woman, Boaz upholds her integrity of character, as expressed in verse 11—All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

A nearer kinsman-redeemer

Boaz also expresses his willingness to be the kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi but shares some new information which interrupts all their plans. There is a relative more closely related to Elimelech’s family line than Boaz.

This puts everything on hold but not for long. Boaz vows to resolve the dilemma the next morning and assures Ruth of his commitment and willingness to take her as his wife and preserve the legacy of the property and lineage of Elimelech and his sons.

This nearer kinsman-redeemer will be addressed in chapter four as the story comes to a climax. We’ll see how this dilemma is resolved in the next chapter and get more insight into the role of a kinsman-redeemer.

consider what this short story reveals.

Naomi’s plan was to set Ruth in a situation she hoped would develop into a marriage relationship to preserve her husband’s and son’s legacy and their family share of property.

Ruth looked to Boaz as a provider and protector, not just for herself but for Naomi, as well. Her request of Boaz reveals this when she says—

Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer. (Ruth 3:9 NIV 84)

It is more than an attitude of submission. It is an expression of trust. It reaches back to her commitment to Naomi and trust in the God of Israel. It looks forward to a hoped for union with Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer, which foreshadows the Kinsman-Redeemer of all.

Although Ruth would have no concept or understanding of a future redeemer, what she says to Boaz echoes the confidence Job had in God when he said—

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. (Job 19:25 NIV 84)

We all have plans within any given day—whether small or great, intentional or routine. But life tends to interrupt our plans and reality breaks into our daydreams and ideal intentions.

We can allow these interruptions to throw us into fretting and worrying, anger and resentment, or peace and trust. It depends on what or where or who we put our trust in.

So, the question is—

How do you handle the interruptions of life?

Reflection—

We can allow the interruptions that come in our lives to throw us into fretting and worrying, anger and resentment, or peace and trust. It all depends on what or where or who we put our trust in.

Prayer Focus—

When you find your life interrupted, choose to lift the eyes of your heart and the thoughts of your mind to the Lord. Not to question but to listen and in trust. Learn to trust in God as a first resort rather than in desperation or frustration.


Devo Scripture Text

So she [Ruth] went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do. When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.

In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.”

“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don't be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.

Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I. Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem. But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.” (Ruth 3:6-13 NIV 84)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Why are you paying attention to me?

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“Why are you so helpful? Why are you paying attention to me? I’m only a foreigner.” Ruth 2:10 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

One of the existential questions of life is—Does my life have significance? Does my life matter to anyone but me? It’s a reasonable question, especially since we are one person among 7.7 billion people in the world.

Every human life has significance—even those unborn in the womb—because each person is created in the image of God. This makes each of us significant to God. But we are all significant to our families, also.

It’s easy to see this in healthy families with a good sense of well-being. But even in dysfunctional families or those torn apart by divorce, mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction, poverty, war, or any other detrimental situation including death.

My wife and I witnessed this while raising our own children, as foster parents, and as surrogate parents for the children and abused girls we cared for in the Philippines for nearly a quarter of a century. Every child—every one of us—has significance and worth, yet we all wonder what our purpose in life is at some point.

God’s favor—His unmerited goodness towards us

As the story of Ruth the Moabitess unfolds, we see her surprised at God’s favor in her life. Many people find it difficult to grasp the truth of God’s favor. Two simple reasons come to mind—we don’t deserve it and we can’t earn or receive it based on good deeds.

God’s favor is given by God for His purposes. He doesn’t extend His favor based on a person’s goodness but He does grant it to us for our benefit. It’s God’s blessing—His grace—given to someone for His purposes.

But how is it possible for someone to receive His favor?

The simplest, most direct way to receive God’s favor is to trust in Him. Here is what we’re told in the book of Hebrews—

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb 11:6 GW)

Faith in God is an implicit trust in God. And this is what we see about Ruth and why she receives God’s favor. It started when she chose to trust in the God of Naomi—the God of Israel—the One, True, and Living God.

We see her confession of faith when she said— Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God (Ruth 1:16c).

We see God’s favor shown to her through Boaz. Why? He knows of her faith in God and her faithfulness in character (Ruth 2:11).

Ruth is unaware of why God’s favor rests upon her but she knows she neither deserved or earned the favor Boaz bestowed upon her. She sees it when he tells her to stay in his field, to stay with the young women, and to drink the water drawn by his young men (verses 8-9).

In response to Ruth’s wonder at the favor Boaz shows her, Boaz tells her three things about her that reflect her trust in God and how it’s worked through her life (verse 11).

Then Boaz pronounces a blessing on her. His blessing reveals how and why the Lord’s favor is upon her—

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. (verse 12)

The provisional and protective care Boaz shows to Ruth is extraordinary. It’s hard for us to see this without understanding the culture of their time. Women, especially widows, had little status in ancient culture. Foreign—non-Jewish or Gentile—women had even less respect in Jewish culture.

Even when we receive God’s favor, we should not take it for granted. Ruth’s reply to Boaz in verse 13 shows us the appropriate and wise attitude we need to have—

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

Ruth’s gratitude seems to prompt Boaz to extend his favor to her further, as seen in verses 14-16 (see text below). Boaz includes Ruth with the rest of his harvesters when he invites her to eat the midday meal with them and gives special instructions about her to his young men.

Gleanings from Ruth

We’ll look at the rest of the story next time but consider what we’ve learned about God’s favor in this segment of the story.

When we walk by faith with a childlike trust in God, His favor will be upon us and go before us, as He opens doors of opportunity we can’t open on our own. Ruth gains a sense of significance and value because of God’s favor upon her life.

When Ruth realizes the great favor she’s received, she doesn’t take it for granted. She’s grateful for it and acknowledges this. Her gratitude seems to open further blessing and favor by Boaz.

God’s favor—His grace—flows like a stream to carry us along as we learn to rely upon Him with the abandon and commitment we see in Ruth as she trusts in the God of Israel. We need to choose to trust in the Lord but we will never earn or gain God’s favor because of our choice.

What have you learned about God’s favor for your life?

Reflection—

When you walk by faith with a childlike trust in God, His favor will be upon you and go before you, as He opens doors of opportunity you can’t open on your own. When you realize God’s favor in your life—acknowledge it, be grateful for it, and rest in it and in Him.

Prayer Focus—

While in prayer, learn to wait upon God—listen for Him to speak to your heart. Trust Him for His grace to fill you and carry you as you rest in His faithfulness and goodness.


Devo Scripture Text

So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”

At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”

“May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.” When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.

As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.” (Ruth 2:8-16 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

The Challenge of Bitterness and Blame

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“No, my daughters. My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble.” Ruth 1:13 GW [see full devo text in NIV below]

I’ve called these devotional studies in the Book of Ruth, Stories of Redemption, because of the many turns in the larger story of Ruth.

The story of Ruth the Moabitess is a glimmer of light in the midst of the national darkness Israel went through in the periodic leadership of the Judges sent by God.

The theme of redemption runs throughout Ruth but looks ahead in a prophetic way to Jesus—the Redeemer of all humanity.

The bitter goodby

In this story, Naomi plans to return to her homeland with her two widowed daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth. As they prepare to head to Judah, Naomi realizes how difficult the travel and transition back home will be for all three of them.

The two Moabite women would be outsiders back in Judah and Ruth expresses her own bitterness about her situation and blames God for it. Naomi urges Orpah and Ruth to return to their own people, land, and gods, then speaks a blessing over them.

As she kisses them goodby, Orpah and Ruth weep out loud and insist on going back with Naomi. But Naomi tries to reason with them—she doesn’t have anything to offer them and they’d be better off in their own familiar homeland.

There’s an obvious bond between these three women forged by time and shared hardships. Each of them is without husband or children. They’ve grieved together in their life together.

At this point, Naomi shares her heart in an honest and open way—

No, my daughters. My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble.

Once again, they erupt with loud grieving with the realization a choice needs to be made and Naomi tries to clarify her self, her decision, and the inevitable separation.

Orpha kisses Naomi goodby but Ruth clings to her.

This is a redemptive turning point. It may not seem so at first glance but it is a significant event as the story unfolds. It’s a choice with future impact seen later in the larger story.

Grief, separation, and choice

Imagine the bond between these three women. They were family and they shared common memories and grief. The two Moabite women seem to have a sense of hope and shelter in Naomi’s God.

Saying goodby and moving far away brings the reality of separation into clear focus. It is often preceded and followed with grief. It was especially so in those days. Once they separated, there would be no going back to see one another either way.

Our freedom to travel from one place to another now was unknown even a century ago except for the very wealthy. Only those looking to find a new life in a new place would risk this kind of separation. Even so, it isn’t without its own often immeasurable costs.

The missionaries who set out for distant lands in years gone by knew the grief of goodbyes and separation from loved ones and their homeland. Many knew they would never return. They either didn’t have the resources or knew they were destined to die while on mission.

Even now, cross-cultural missionaries have a lot of goodbyes to say. Some are much harder than others. Every missionary experiences this not just when they leave but while on the field. You need to learn to say goodby often as people come and go in your life.

When we left our family and friends, our home culture, and home church to move to the Philippines, we also left our oldest son to finish school. That was the hardest goodby and the roughest year for us as a family on the field.

It was difficult when we said many final goodbyes as we brought our ministry to a close several years ago. But each goodby came because of a choice we made.

There are some goodbyes where other people leave and we remain. Some separations are not our choice but the result of circumstances beyond our control.

Where’s the redemption in all this?

Redemption can come when we make the choice to say goodby and move on because we see beyond the separation and grief of those goodbyes. Sometimes it’s a matter of faith to see beyond the situation. Other times God’s grace and comfort help us move forward in faith.

Naomi only saw her own situation from her point of view. She was bitter and blamed God. Orpah realized the logic of Naomi’s choice to go back to her homeland and people. So she chose to stay in her homeland with her people and her gods.

But Ruth saw beyond her situation by faith. She trusted in Naomi’s God and had hope. As the story continues, we’ll see how pivotal a figure Ruth becomes in these stories of redemption, even the redemption story for all humanity.

Reflection—

Times of separation and grief are also times of choice. We can choose to hang on to the bitterness they bring or let it go of it. We can choose to blame or trust God. We can see only loss or look forward by faith beyond the loss.

Prayer Focus—

When you face a difficult goodby or separation, ask the Lord for grace to handle it well, comfort to endure it, and faith to see beyond it.


Devo Scripture Text

With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband.

Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them?

No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. (Ruth 1:7-14 NIV)


Click this link if you’d like more background on the Book of RuthRuth Background

Here are some Study Questions for a more in-depth study of RuthRuth Study Q’s

Things and People Who Are Never Satisfied

The bloodsucking leech has two daughters—“Give!” and “Give!”

Three things are never satisfied. Four never say, “Enough!”:

the grave, a barren womb,

a land that never gets enough water,

a fire that does not say, “Enough!” (Proverbs 30:15-16 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 30:1-16 GW)


Have you ever wanted something so much you’d do most anything to get it? And when you got whatever it was you wanted, you realized it wasn’t enough? It didn’t satisfy the want inside you.

This is the reality of greed and lust—not just sexual lust—but a deep longing that never seems to be satisfied. It’s the unrestrained self—like a bottomless pit of want.

This sense of dissatisfaction is not because of a lack of something but abundance. This abundance is the entrance to the bottomless pit of want. It sets a person up to want more but it never brings satisfaction.

As mentioned in a previous devotional, the use of numbers and lists in the book of Proverbs provides helpful ways to remember various truths. In these two verses, our list moves in a progression from two to four but with one theme—never satisfied.

2 daughters—Give and Give more

It begins with the descriptive picture of a bloodsucking leech. Those worm-like, slimy creatures whose flat undersides attach to a person’s skin with their other side rounded which grows more round as blood is sucked from their host victim.

Not a flattering description of someone who attaches themselves to another for provision and sustenance! But it makes the point in a graphic way.

Not everyone who begs is a leech. But some people only seem to know how to take and never give. The more given to them, the more they want and take. One Bible version says this—

A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” (Prov 30:15 MSG)

When a person develops a dependency on another or others, it becomes more and more difficult for them to let go of their dependency. It doesn’t matter what form the dependency takes—they will always want more. In some ways it’s like an addiction.

Isn’t it interesting how lottery winners are sought after by friends and family, and others who have all sorts of advice on how to handle the winnings. Some are more subtle than others but a lot of hands are extended in expectation of the lottery winner sharing their wealth.

Wealthy people always seem to have at least one if not a few family members who feel entitled to the family wealth. This is a universal reality down through the ages.

Government assistance is essential for many people to survive. No question. But it can be taken advantage of and milked in many ways. This type of dependency becomes a way of life and livelihood and the system often discourages efforts to be weaned from this dependency.

Never enough

It’s not all about leeches though. Four other examples are given of this unsatisfied state.

The grave

The grave is a reminder of the universal reality of death. As many have said before—no one gets out of this life alive. None of us escapes the grasp of death. Even cryogenics happens after death, well…unless someone volunteers to be frozen alive.

Although the grave—death—isn’t just for the old. I’ve presided over too many funerals and memorials of people who died too soon. But as we age, the finality and reality of death claiming life presses into our psyche more and more.

A barren womb

A woman who longs for a child of her own bears a heavy weight. There are no easy answers. Only well-meaning platitudes that fall flat and increase the harsh longing of a mother-to-be.

There are stories in the Bible that illustrate this, such as Sarah—Abraham’s wife who was to bear the son of a man called the father of many nations (Gen 17:1-8; 15-20). Hannah’s story, the mother of Samuel the prophet, illustrates the heaviness of a barren womb even more so (1 Sam 1:1-18).

Land and water

Farmers, gardeners, even firefighters know how thirsty the ground is for water. Water either soaks in too fast or not at all, or runs off before it can soak in and satisfy the needs of plant and tree growth.

Keep in mind this is a picture. It illustrates something of life from nature. Think of the different situations it might represent—flooding or drought, the cycle of seasons in relation to farming. Now, consider how this relates to your own life. Need a start? How about—you don’t miss the water till the well runs dry.

Fire

Fire brings us full circle. A close friend and firefighter told me this about fire years ago—as long as there is fuel and oxygen, the fire stays alive and consumes whatever is in its path. It’s never satisfied. It never says enough!

Anyone who has experienced a powerful fire firsthand—whether in a building or a forest—can attest to the fierce consuming power of fire. My wife and I have. It is hard to put the experience into words except to say—it’s fierce and powerful and indiscriminate in its destructive power.

The sense of not being satisfied only stops when we surrender it to God and ask for Him to rescue us. We may be able to dull it or try to avoid or ignore it but it doesn’t just go away because it’s embedded in us.

King Solomon understood this personally, as seen in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

This is why Jesus made so many personal invitations to come to Him. And He showed us the way of surrender in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) so we could be set free of this unsatisfied sense and be fulfilled in Him.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38 NIV)

Reflection—

Whatever dissatisfaction we might have will only be quelled when we surrender it to God and ask Him to rescue us. For the Lord desires to rescue and free us, and to fill us with contentment and life.

Prayer Focus—

Are there ways you find yourself longing for something or someone that hasn’t been satisfied and leaves you wanting? Bring these desires, longings, and wants to the Lord and surrender them in prayer. Give them to Him in your heart and ask for His help.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Avoiding Bad Advice

Listen to advice and accept discipline so that you may be wise the rest of your life.

Many plans are in the human heart,

but the advice of the Lord will endure.

The fear of the Lord leads to life,

and such a person will rest easy without suffering harm.

If you stop listening to instruction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:20-21, 23, 27 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 19:15-29 GW)


Unsolicited advice is cheap and plentiful. Just like opinions, everybody seems to have advice to give about—life, diet, exercise, business, politics, religion… you name it.

Equating advice as wisdom would be an oxymoron. Not all advice is wise. Go to a racetrack and ask for tips on which horse to bet on. You’re sure to get plenty of advice but the majority of it is useless or worse.

This is true for many other scenarios in life. And yet, people keep handing out free advice that others try to follow. I suppose some of the advice may be useful but I wouldn’t count on it.

So, how can anyone be sure of any advice? Of course, it’s important to consider the source of the advice. Is the person trustworthy? Does the one giving advice follow it themselves?

GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out. This term was coined in the late 50’s as computers began to make their impact in mathematics, science, and business. Simply put, sloppy input produces unreliable output.

Just because a computer spits out calculated information, no one should blindly accept its output as true. Look at all the political and election polls and how skewed or far off they are from actual results or from one poll to another.

If the data input is incorrect, the output will also be incorrect. If the program calculating or analyzing the data is flawed or susceptible to glitches, then the output shouldn’t be trusted.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The only way to avoid bad advice is to be discerning enough to know the difference between what’s good or bad or questionable advice. Understand the origin of the advice. Where is it drawn from and who is giving it?

As explained before, the Proverbs of Solomon are often expressed as guidance from a father to a son. Solomon, the primary author, sees God as the father and Bible narratives provide scores of life examples of sons to learn from—both good and bad.

Here is reliable guidance for avoiding bad advice based on these 4 selected verses—

verse 20– Two things are recommended to gain lifelong wisdom—listen to good advice and make a continuing commitment to apply it in daily life.

verse 21– Others may have advice to offer and our own heart will generate plenty of plans and ideas but only advice that originates from the Lord will last.

verse 23– Good, reliable advice is grounded in a genuine awe and respect for the Lord. The fear of God leads to life because of the confident trust we have in Him.

verse 27– Commitment and discipline to the truth of God are essential for us to maintain the discernment needed to avoid listening to bad advice and holding to good, reliable guidance for our life.

Reflection—

Avoiding bad advice requires discernment to know the difference between what’s good or bad or questionable. When you listen to good, reliable advice and commit yourself to follow it, you can gain a life guided by sound wisdom.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God for discernment to help you know what is good advice to follow. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom daily and for understanding of what you read in the Bible.

©Word-Strong_2018


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